Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Kooky corn holders

Ah, August. Corn-on-the-cob season. I can't wait.

When I was a kid we had these little yellow plastic corn holders. I'm guessing you all had them, too. In fact, that style of corn holder--and minor variations on the theme--are the only corn holder I'd ever seen until I stumbled on these cool little guys.

They come from a company called All You Can Handle, which carries all sorts of peppy ladles and bowls and serving pieces. They don't sell any products on their website, but you can check retail availability there.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The original ice cream mix-in

There are several national chains of ice cream stores that specialize in ice cream with mix-ins. The way the stores work is the customer first chooses an ice cream flavor and then some number of mix-ins (crushed candy, crumbled cookies, nuts, etc.). The guy behind the counter puts everything on a marble counter, takes two flat scoops and mixes the whole thing together.

It's great news for ice cream lovers that the mix-in idea is so widespread, but I feel bound to mention that I went to college with a guy who I'm pretty sure invented this whole idea of marble slabs and mix-ins. His name is Steve Herrell and he's still in the ice cream business. He has a couple of stores in Massachusetts, including two in the Boston area. So if you're ever in the neighborhood, you should visit the inventor of the mix-in (or Smoosh-in®, as he calls it). Here's the link to his stores and their locations.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Is your wineglass half empty or half full?

I'm not a big fan of the stemless wineglass. So many of them look like water glasses that your mother bought on sale at Big Bob's Bargain Bin. However, I would make an exception for the Pallino glass, which is an Italian bistro-style glass, not a wineglass that's lost its stem. It's 4-1/2 inches high and holds 6 ounces. And the neat part is that that there is a line drawn at the halfway mark with the word "ottimista" above the line and "pessimista" below. You can get a set of 6 for $27 at Sur la Table.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tomato hornworms

I am not much of a gardener. I really don't have the patience for all that pruning and watering and weeding. However, when it comes to growing things that I can eat, I make an exception. In my very small garden at my weekend house, I grow tomatoes, basil, chili peppers, oregano, thyme, parsley, sage, mint (well, actually the mint grows itself), blackberries, raspberries, hardy kiwi and table grapes.

My plants all happily toodle along, growing without much of a challenge other than the occasional snail or slug.......except for the tomatoes. The tomatoes are the yearly victims of the dreaded tomato hornworm.

If you've never encountered a tomato hornworm, then you're lucky. If you have, then you know that this obnoxious pest can completely camouflage itself as a tomato leaf and then eat an entire tomato plant to the bone in a matter of hours.

So starting in mid-July I turn into a horticultural vigilante. I am normally very respectful of animal life. I avoid killing spiders and feel bad if I brush an ant away with too much vigor. But I have absolutely no sympathy for the tomato hornworm.

Anyway, a friend of a friend has a wonderful little video blog called gardenfork.tv where he holds forth on all sorts of things, including how to deal with tomato hornworms.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hands-Off Cooking

This spring a cute cookbook came out called Hands-Off Cooking: Low-Supervision High-Flavor Meals for Busy People. The author, Ann Martin Rolke, is a California-based culinary consultant who created over 100 recipes that give the cook a little more freedom at dinner time. As she explains in her introduction "Hands-off recipes have a relatively short prep time followed by unattended cooking. That means no turning, adding ingredients, or stirring the food. You can walk away while it cooks--just don't forget and leave the house." Each recipe tells you how long the "Hands-Off" time is.

The recipes get their hands-off status not only from what comes naturally (slow simmering or marinating, for example), but also because Rolke has devised ways to increase the unattended cooking times: "In order to ensure real hands-off cooking, I developed ways of making recipes so that you don't have to saute, stir constantly, or otherwise watch over the food as it cooks." Throughout the book are tips called Hands-Off Techniques that explain her methodology.

The recipes are family-friendly and appealing: Carolina Pulled Pork, Thai Beef Curry, Pan-Seared Salmon with Lemonade Sauce (uses lemonade concentrate!), Roasted Root Vegetables, Egyptian Macaroni en Crema, Enchiladas Suizas. To read more about Rolke and to check out her recipes, go to www.handsoffcooking.com.